March


 

“The sun is nervous

As a kite
That can’t quite keep
Its own string tight.
Some days are fair,
And some are raw.
The timid earth 
Decides to thaw”
-John Updike

How apropos are these stanzas for those of us living in cold climates that refuse to warm up? It has been a long winter and though it’s technically spring now, the earth here is confused – tinkering on the edge in between fair and raw. Last year, I wrote about Updike’s wonderful collection of poems on the months of the year, called A Child’s Calendar. This has become one of those rare cross-overs in our house – a literary children’s book that my daughter and I both like! It helps that there’s a copy in her school, and it’s so satisfying to read such wonderful writing aloud. Once in a while she asks what a word or phrase means, but for the most part she goes along with me. I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who reads poetry aloud, ever since I read (then watched) Sophie’s Choice (one of my all-time favorite books) and Nathan reads Emily Dickinson aloud to Sophie.

“Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

There are varying analyses of this poem – is it about love, death, sex? those last two lines remind me of Updike’s poem about March…at least the type of March we are having here. “Let no sunrise’ yellow noise interrupt this ground.” It sounds like Dickinson could be writing about the experience we east coasters are having right now. Regardless of the way you read this poem, consider this angle: she’s writing about renewal, about that teetering point between life and loss, winter and spring. It’s so close – within reach, and we know how the next stage will feel because we’ve experienced it in the past one way or another.

    Even Holly Hobbie ways in on this confusing month in her book, Toot and Puddle:

“March meant maple syrup. Puddle wished Toot were there to taste the pancakes.
Yes, spring had arrived. Puddle was having mud season. Yay!

One minute Puddle is mourning his friend’s absence and their shared experiences, and the next he is celebrating what the season brings. Meanwhile Toot is traveling the world having rich experiences, absent of the seasons. He dutifully sends postcards to his friends in which he shares his adventures and, at times, inquires about what he’s missing “I spend all day underwater. I love being in a school of fish. Has Spring come yet?” Though he loves swimming with the fishes and living underwater, you can tell there is that hint of yearning in his concluding question. Anyone who has spent an extended time living in seasons knows what it feels like to live in a climate that remains somewhat the same…it can feel static, right? Maybe even confusing. You’re waiting for that cue from Mother Nature that life moves on; the cycle continues. Though we dwell here in the cold, surrounded by bare limbs shrugging off the last moments of this season, we know what comes next. That is what we are holding on to – the memory of what’s to come.